Today's Pondering: How Do I Know When It's Love?

I recently read a post about a family that actually fakes being Christian to fit in with others in their community.  This post was not surprising to me.  As disturbing as the article was, at least this family was big enough to admit that they are faking.  So often I wonder if the people I encounter are genuinely practicing their religions or simply going through the motions of being what others want them or expect them to be. 

It is a struggle to be a good person.  No matter what faith you hold or where you place yourself on the spectrum of good and bad Christians, keeping up with the expectations placed on you by others is always going to be more difficult than simply keeping up with God’s expectations of you.  I’m sure that it becomes easier, the less you try to impress your fellow man.  As much as I try to do the right thing, I still have a very hard time believing that I can pull this off.   

Over the years, whenever I have been so focused on whether or not someone would be impressed by my level of goodness or by the lack of it, things simply haven’t gone my way. In my naivete, I’ve also found that many of the people I held up as good churchgoing Christians actually do more that I feel would be displeasing to God than I do.  And because of this, I become disillusioned and begin to wonder, “If they can do this and still consider themselves to be good Christians, why am I putting myself through this?”  The major problem in this line of thinking is that God isn’t at the center of this type of thinking.  I shouldn’t care what others are thinking about what I do.  I shouldn’t let the standards of man dictate how I conduct myself in my personal relationship with God. 

In my life, I’ve done many terrible things.  Terrible by my standards, maybe not by God’s standards.  I’ve raked myself over the coals for my behavior and carried around feelings of guilt and unworthiness over some of it.  But I have always been able to talk to God about it.  Even when I was afraid He wouldn’t understand, I know that it was God who put His hand on my shoulder and nudged me forward to break free from those feelings of guilt and pain.  I know that He would be more disappointed in me if I spent my time trying to make others think I was something that I’m not than if I simply accept my mistakes and take my shame over them to Him in prayer.  This verse, among others, helps me when I’m struggling to stay genuine in my relationship with God:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”- Jeremiah 29:11-13